Tag Archives: charity

Dancing With Willard

I was sitting in my office looking around trying to decide what I’d talk about in my blog this month when my eyes rested on a letter on the wall from Mr. Charles A. Whitehurst, Vice President and General Manager of WSFA, a local TV station in Montgomery, AL. It was dated September 21, 1983 and it made me smile.

At that time, I owned my own G-rated “bellygram” service in which I visited businesses, hospitals, restaurants, etc. to help people celebrate their birthdays, anniversaries, farewells, get-wells, etc. Instead of people sending flowers to someone they admired, they sent me. During my lively ten minute dance routine I presented the guest of honor with a personalized banner announcing the special occasion and I crowned them with my veil and tambourine. My job was really fun and I enjoyed it immensely.

When Channel Twelve called me they said they realized I was a belly dancer, but did I think I could do a Carmen Miranda routine instead of a belly dance? They explained that Willard Scott was coming to Montgomery for a charity event and there would be a huge welcoming for him at the airport when he arrived. High school bands would play, Mayor Folmar would present the Keys to the City, that sort of thing. Just days before, Willard had accepted a challenge to dress up as Carmen Miranda on his weather spot on NBC’s The Today Show to raise money for charity.  His appearance caused a huge sensation all over the U.S. In fact, Al Roker later said, “If the Internet had existed the day Willard Scott dressed up as Carmen Miranda, he would have broken the Internet.”

Channel Twelve’s proposal sounded so intriguing, I accepted right away. The problem was, I needed a costume and music and I had a day and a half to pull that all together. Yikes! Furthermore, I didn’t have time to go to the library for research. I had to rely on my memory of Carmen Miranda, the famous Portuguese-Brazilian singer, dancer, actress and film star who was popular from the 1930s to the 1950s. I scrambled together some bright, colorful fabric from my costume supply and started making ruffles like crazy. Papier-mâché fruit I had crafted years before became incorporated into a headdress to top off the costume. Then I rummaged through my varied music selection, and stayed up all night getting it all ready for Willard.

I called my next door neighbor, Chi, who heartily agreed to come with me to the airport. I was supposed to be hidden until Mr. Scott arrived and when he made his appearance in the terminal where everyone was congregated, I needed her to punch the play button on my boombox to start my Carmen Miranda music.  I’d take it from there.

Little did I know how cooperative Willard would be! When the Latin music began and I made my surprise appearance, he came right over and started dancing with me alternating hand to elbow, hand to elbow with the beat, and he even bumped my hip so hard, I thought I was going to sail into the crowd! My nervousness disappeared when I saw him having so much fun. His joy was infectious and the crowd went wild. When the news came on TV that night, Chi and I watched it and relived the whole experience, all over again.

The letter I received from Mr. Charles Whitehurst, which hangs on my office wall, was one of thanks for my participation in making what Willard declared, “a most warm and wild greeting,” with a request he be invited again. Every time I look at that letter I smile as I remember a gracious and fun-filled man.

After note: In December 2015, Willard Scott officially ended his 65 year career at NBC; 35 of those years were with The Today Show. I hope he is enjoying his retirement. He certainly deserves it.

 

Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland.

Join her here each 11th of the month.

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Last Man Standing

Last Man Standing

Last Man Standing

By Jay Duret

They were in the seat in front of me on the BART. I could only see the back of their heads but their voices were distinct.

The woman said, “Oh my God it was bad. Really bad. The. Worst. Ever.”

The guy said, “Worst what?”

“Fundraiser. It was for that new school in the Mission. I went with Tommy and he said it would be really fun.”

“What was wrong with it?”

“Oh you name it, the bar was slow, the food sucked, and the speeches lasted forever. I was looking for some drinks and a nice dinner, you know, hear about the school and get home by nine. Fat chance.”

“Did they go on and on? They always do.”

“Oh my God it was endless.”

“Doesn’t sound that bad. I went to one that was much worse.”

“Couldn’t be.”

“No seriously, it was a hospital thing. You know that place where Jen used to work. A really big deal. Must have been 1000 people there. My boss couldn’t go at the last minute and so I had his tickets – they were like $2500 apiece or something insane.”

“Sounds like a big deal.”

“No kidding. There was a big tent and a million servers in tuxes. There were speeches and the tribute videos and the celebrity appearances and they had this big time sleazoid emcee guy and everything.”

“I hate those guys.”

“The last speech was a girl that had had surgery at the hospital and she had a cleft palate. They had before and after photos and she had looked really bad before and now she was great. I mean it was a great story and she told it beautifully – all the women were crying – and when she was done we all stood up to applaud for her.”

“Very nice. So what was so bad?”

“They wouldn’t let us sit down.”

“What do you mean?”

“The guy that was running the thing just said we should remain standing. He said they had come up with a fun way to finish off the evening.”

“I don’t get it. What were they going to have you do, dance the hokey-pokey?”

“SOO much worse. This guy says, ‘and now anybody who wants to provide $50,000 to help fund a new pediatric surgery chair should sit down.’ Everybody looked around at each other and didn’t quite know what to make of it. But some guy at the front table sat down right where everybody could see him do it. And as soon as he did, all these people burst out of the back room and started cheering and screaming. They were wearing these orange tee-shirts on top of their tuxedos – they looked like Oompa-Loompas, I swear to God – and they mobbed the guy like he’d just hit a three pointer at the buzzer.”

“Wow I’ve never seen it done that way.”

“I didn’t really even get it at first, but it became pretty clear cause then the emcee asked who wanted to give $20,000 to provide training for an intern in pediatric oncology. Like, he said, anyone who wanted to give should just sit down.”

“Oh my God, that’s awful.”

“Yeah and so like four people sat down.”

“Wow, what were you doing?”

“Shit I was just standing there, what else could I do? Like $20,000 is ridiculous. And I am like in the second table in the front cause I had my boss’s seats.”

“So what did they do next?”

“Well then they did $10,000 and $5,000 and then $2,500 and honestly I couldn’t believe it. People were sitting down left and right.”

“So did you try to sit down yourself?”

“No you couldn’t do it. They had us trapped because they had all these orange guys who kept swarming around anytime somebody sat down. You didn’t want to sit down by mistake. If you sat down you would be out $2,500. The only way to avoid it was just to keep standing. And so then they went to $1,000 and $500 and then they got to $250 and shit, I gotta tell you that by that point there weren’t that many people still standing and I’m there and everybody at my table is looking up at me like I’m a total cheapskate.”

“So what did you do?”

“Well, what could I do? I didn’t want to put up that kind of money so I just stood there and then they went down to $100 and then $75 and honestly I think at $75 I may have been the only person in the entire room left standing. They were all looking at me.”

“Oh my God. That’s horrible. How did you feel?”

“It had been going on for hours by this point, at least that what it felt like, and I had been feeling like a trapped rat, but when they got down to $75 I got really pissed. I am like screw this, I’m not sitting down. See what they do. So the guy went ahead and he called for $50 and I stood there and he looked at me and gave me a little friendly sort of sheepish smile like he was kind of sorry could I just help him out, but I am now in a total screw you mode and so I just looked at him like he was dirt.”

“Jeesus. What happened?”

“I think if I’d given him a signal that I could do you know 25 bucks he would have called that and we could have been done with it, but when I projected attitude, he started going down by $5 amounts.”

“You’re kidding.”

“No, seriously, it went $50, $45, $40 and by this time everybody in the place was totally pissed at me.”

“Why! Why were they pissed at you?”

“Cause they were all ready to go home and their cars had been valeted and they wanted to beat the line but they were trapped.”

“Why were they trapped? Hadn’t they already given?”

“Yeah, but I think they were worried that if they stood up people would think they hadn’t given and they would seem like they were as big a jerk as me.”

“Oh my God. How much did you give in the end?”

“I stood my ground.”

“Wow. You are tough.”

“You have no idea. They got down to 10 bucks and the sleazoid is giving me the stink eye but I just gave it back to him so he starts to go down a dollar at a time.”

“No way!”

“Yeah, finally some guy at the front had enough and he yells out that he’ll give $5,000 bucks if they’ll just stop.”

“No!”

“And the emcee smiles and looks at the crowd and he says, “Ladies and Gentlemen, I have $5,000 do I hear $6,000?” And then people start bidding, just to stop the guy from trying to get me to put up a few bucks. It was wild, one guy bid $10,000.”

“And did he… Oh, shit… Goddamn it! You are bullshitting me, right?”

“Ha Ha.”

“God damn you. You are a jerk.”

“Thank you. Thank you very much”

“You are such a jerk.”

“Had you going.”

“Jerk.”

* * *

Jay Duret is a San Francisco based writer. His novel Nine Digits will be published by Second Wind Publishing this year. View the book trailer at www.ninedigits.com. Click below to see Jay’s other posts on the Second Wind blog:

Bridalplasty

Bridalplasty

Queen For A Day

Queen For A Day

 

 

Nom De Plume

Nom De Plume

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Is There Something . . .

Saturday, December 18th, found me sitting in a comfortable chair in the Center Bar at the Hard Rock Casino listening to my friend Alan’s band play amid, above and around the noise from the slot machines and the hubbub of a multitude of people.

I watch situations and reactions, and on Saturday night I was in my element. I was in the middle of a people buffet. What I saw ran the gamut from average to bizarre to just plain sad.

What were their stories? I like to hear about the lives of others, but a good deal of the time the facts are highly glossed. People typically want you to think everything is hunky dory and will give you the impression their life is spent in a ray of sunshine.

I tried to avoid talking directly to a guy wearing Don Johnson’s Miami Vice, but even as  I kept easing away, I was sizing him up as a character in a future book. I did the same with the trench coat-wearing, fiftyish Nicolas Cage look-alike who was hanging all over a girl who was half his size and looked barely twenty-one.

The women and men who were dressed to the nines for a night out on the town were interesting, too, but not as much as the craggy folks mindlessly playing the slots. These were the real people as they wore who they were and what they were about for the entire casino to see. They were the “regulars.”

In the three hours we were at the Hard Rock, I noticed several people who did not move from their allotted slot seats. Now, while I like the slots and love Vegas, I don’t have a problem walking away from Wild Cherry whether I’m up or down. You can tell the ones who do have a problem – they have an invisible name etched on the back of their seats.

Alan’s band, Five Star Iris, played “Is There Something I Can Do,” the song that introduced us to each other back when I was in a black pit of grief. This song is about the helplessness the singer feels toward a grieving friend, but I realized it is more than that: it’s a song about hope amid the chaos of life. It’s Alan’s creed and a lesson he teaches by words and example: we’re all here to help each other.

The people I observed wore masks (except the “regulars”). They looked, for the most part, happy and upbeat and ranged from tipsy to drunk. These people hanging around Center Bar were the fakes, yet, in my opinion, they were in more need of help than the gambling addicts.

After Alan sang my grief song, I wondered how a person could help a total stranger when said stranger is unaware he needs help. How do you help a drowning man when he believes he’s a fish? It was an unusual question to ponder in the middle of a night of music and gambling.

We are all writers of our own fate and the fate of others. Our stories are written by our actions and interactions with the people around us. Our words don’t have to be put down on paper; they can be sung or spoken out loud or whispered quietly into the ear of a grieving friend.

Alan Schaefer’s band
Five Star Iris

J J Dare is the author of two published books, several short stories and about thirty works-in-progress.

Current enthusiasm is co-authoring at Rubicon Ranch

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Funny and Sweet – Time’s running out!

My friend Bearman is doing a great thing http://beartoons.com/2009/06/01/beartoonscharitydrive/

Not only is he a very entertaining cartoonist, but he’s also going to donate to the FreeStore FoodBank.

Bearman makes a good point, not just with his generosity but that a lot of people have lost their jobs and a lot of people are grateful they are still employed.

Thanks for everything, Bearman. I needed a good blog! Bearman is only doing the promotion for another week so jump over and help out.

Also, there’s only a week left for submissions to the Murder On the Wind contest.  This is your chance to enter to have a short story posted in a mystery anthology. Read the instructions and email your 5000 or less short mystery story to Tracy@secondwindpublishing.com

Thank you!

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